A “happy” looking Tim Cook — Apple’s Chief Operating Officer — was spotted inside the headquarters of Chinese telecom giant China Mobile on Wednesday. Sina Weibo, a reporter for First Financial Daily, posted on her blog that she “accidentally discovered” Mr. Cook inside China Mobile, and she guessed that he was in the country to talk about an iPhone deal with the world’s largest wireless carrier.
According to a translation of the blog post by English-language Chinese gadget site M.I.C. Gadget, the reporter wrote, ““This morning, around 10, Apple COO Tim Cook is spotted in the lobby of China Mobile’s HQ, accompanied by 7-8 people. Probably Cook is talking with executives from China Mobile to discuss bilateral cooperation for the iPhone. Both China and America flags are seen in the lobby, and Cook seems to be happy.”
You can also check out the Google translation, which is somewhat less coherent.
Apple COO Tim Cook is on the right in the navy blue jacket and light slacks
Photo by Sina Weibo
As noted above, China Mobile is the world’s largest wireless carrier, with more than 600 million customers — that’s not quite twice as many people as live in all of the U.S. Apple sells the iPhone in China through the smaller (but still large) China Unicom, but China Mobile would offer Apple an enormous opportunity to sell more iPhones.
As it is, AppleInsider reported that some four million iPhones are in use on China Mobile’s network, despite the fact the carrier doesn’t officially support the device. Those four million iPhones are running as slower 2G devices because Apple does not make an iPhone that supports the version of CDMA that China Mobile uses for 3G services.
It’s easy to assume that a happy looking Tim Cook suggests that some kind of accord has been reached by the two companies, but even if that is actually the case, when and if Apple would be able to release a version of the iPhone that runs on China Mobile’s network would still remain an unknown.
For instance, M.I.C. Gadget speculated that Apple could be tinkering around with an LTE iPhone for China Mobile, but most informed speculation at this point has Apple waiting one more generation before rolling out an LTE iPhone because of the remarkably poor battery performance suffered by current LTE devices.
Still, high level meetings between China Mobile and the happy-looking executive who is officially running day-to-day operations at Apple while Steve Jobs is on a medical leave of absence suggest something is transpiring between the two companies.